Monday, August 10, 2020

Manchester City's two-year Champions League ban overturned

Jul 13. 2020
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By The Washington Post · Matt Bonesteel 

The Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland announced Monday that it has overturned Manchester City's two-year European competition ban over violations of UEFA's Financial Fair Play policy. CAS also reduced the fine the English Premier League team must pay from approximately $34 million to around $11 million.

Manchester City is second in the Premier League standings and now will qualify for next season's Champions League, a financially lucrative competition that will generate millions in revenue for the club. Manchester United, which currently sits fifth in the table, now must work its way into the top four with four matches remaining to qualify.

UEFA, European soccer's governing body, handed down Manchester City's ban in February after leaked club emails were published by German magazine Der Spiegel in November 2018. They appeared to show that the club misled UEFA by overstating sponsorship deals from 2012 to 2016 and hid the source of revenue linked to state-backed companies in Abu Dhabi (the team is owned by a private-equity firm headed by a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family). Manchester City appealed the ban to CAS, saying the emails were stolen and reported out of context.

A three-judge CAS panel found that the alleged violations uncovered by UEFA Club Financial Control Body, which conducted the investigation, "were either not established or time-barred," meaning the statue of limitations had expired. However, CAS maintained the financial penalty against Manchester City, albeit in a reduced fashion, because of the club's "obstruction" of the UEFA investigation.

"Whilst Manchester City and its legal advisors are yet to review the full ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the Club welcomes the implications of today's ruling as a validation of the Club's position and the body of evidence that it was able to present," Manchester City said in a statement. "The Club wishes to thank the panel members for their diligence and the due process that they administered."

UEFA acknowledged the CAS ruling in a statement of its own but said "it will be making no further comments on the matter." The body established its Financial Fair Play rules in 2009 to prevent the European soccer clubs that qualify for continentwide competitions from spending more than they earn in the pursuit of success.

According to the Associated Press, UEFA could appeal the ruling to Switzerland's supreme court, though it is unlikely to be successful. Paris Saint-Germain, AC Milan and Galatasaray also have won CAS appeals against UEFA in recent years.

The UEFA sanction did not apply to this year's Champions League, which has been delayed by the novel coronavirus pandemic. Manchester City holds a 2-1 lead over Real Madrid after the first leg of their round-of-16 matchup. The second leg will be played Aug. 7.

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